26 October 2016

Faster than a DC Bullet: Birds of Prey, Part XVIII: Birds of Prey, Volume 2

Back in early 2013, I read all the Birds of Prey comics that then existed; since there, more have been published, and catching up on them is my last round of catching up before I turn my eyes back to other ongoing projects.

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2016 (contents: 1999)
Borrowed from the library
Read May 2016
Birds of Prey, Volume 2

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Pencillers: Greg Land, Dick Giordano, Pete Krause, Nelson DeCastro
Inkers: Drew Geraci, Mark Propst
Colorists: Gloria Vasquez, James Sinclair
Letterers: Albert T. DeGuzman, Tim Harkins

DC Comics has been re-collecting the original Birds of Prey comics from the beginning. They're chunkier than the old collections, which means that Volume 1 of these new collections contained all the comics previously collected in Black Canary/Oracle/Huntress: Birds of Prey and some of those in Old Friends, New Enemies, while Volume 2 contains the balance of issues from Old Friends, plus a number of issues that have never been collected before at all, so that's were I'm starting in these new collections.

Even when a slave laborer in a third-world country, Dinah looks good.
from Birds of Prey vol. 1 #3 (art by Greg Land & Drew Geraci)

Birds of Prey as originally conceived is undeniably a fun concept: Black Canary and Oracle, both characters with somewhat rocky pasts, moving on with their lives and kicking butt. During this period of the book, they've never met in person (well, not since Barbara Gordon became Oracle); Oracle's identity is a secret from Dinah, and there's also an online relationship brewing between Barbara and the mysterious "Beeb." What we end up with here are a variety of exciting, action-based stories by Chuck Dixon (undeniably an expert at exciting, action-based stories, but Birds of Prey is probably him at his best) and Greg Land and Drew Geraci (who draw attractive women without being sleazy). I already reviewed the first couple stories in this book in my review of Old Friends, New Enemies, so here I'll focus on what was new to me, though suffice it to say that I found the story where Black Canary and the Ravens both end up on vacation in Minnesota and a dinosaur comes through a time portal to be immense fun.

If you can see the whole thing, Cheshire's costume (top left) looks even worse.
from Birds of Prey: The Ravens #1 (art by Nelson DeCastro & Drew Geraci)

First off, there's "S.I.M.O.N. Says Armageddon," focused entirely on the Ravens, who are kind of the evil Birds of Prey: Cheshire, Pistolera, Vicious, and Termina. The first two are preexisting characters; the latter two original to this book. This issue vaguely sets the stage for the Ravens encountering Black Canary in the next issue, but it's somewhat silly, and Nelson DeCastro's costumes for the Ravens are quite frankly terrible, as evidenced by the fact that when they reappear exactly one issue later, Greg Land has given each one a totally new and much better look.

Not just new outfits, but new haircuts... and new hair colors!
from Birds of Prey vol. 1 #6 (art by Greg Land & Drew Geraci)

The next new story is "The Villain," where Dinah has to protect a former dictator from assassins so that he can stand trial. It's a serviceable enough action piece, but the characterization here isn't quite interesting enough to make the point Dixon wants to make (the dictator might not be as bad a guy as Dinah thought) come across with any real meaning.

Just wait for the next reboot, Babs, then you can walk again.
from Birds of Prey vol. 1 #8 (art by Greg Land & Drew Geraci)

One of the book's real highlights is "On Wings," which tells a story of Barbara Gordon and her on-again off-again flame, Dick Grayson. This story is sweet-- or maybe bittersweet. Barbara and Dick go on what is essentially a date, with dinner and a night at the circus, and Dick really sweetly gives her the ability to fly again despite her paralysis on the circus trapezes. Their physical proximity and emotional intimacy intermix, but Barbara can't bring herself to go further; her damage from being shot by the Joker is more than just physical. She accuses Dick of pushing her, but I feel like she's sending off signals of wanting something more herself; it seems cruel to accept Dick's invitation when she knows he wants something she can never give. But if she didn't accept him, who would she have at all, given she keeps all her other friends and acquaintances even further away?

These guys are sort of endearing because they seem to know they suck.
from Birds of Prey vol. 1 #10 (art by Greg Land & Drew Geraci)

The last story here is a three-parter: "Girls Rules"/"The Wrong Guy"/"State of War," where an attempt by Dinah to extract a captive scientist ends up with her discovering a long-lost clone of Guy Gardner, former Green Lantern. I think this guy turned up in The Darkstars, but here he is for some reason. (Actually, the reason is that Chuck Dixon once wrote the inexplicable Guy Gardner ongoing.) Anyway, this story has its moments-- I liked the recurring gag about the Iron Brigade and the pompous way it would introduce itself, and here Barbara's communications with "Beeb" begin to heat up-- but at three issues, the thin premise outstays its welcome. And Guy isn't as funny as he should be, even if he's a fake Guy.

Though this moment is pretty great. Bwahaha!
from Birds of Prey vol. 1 #10 (art by Greg Land & Drew Geraci)

Overall, though, this is a fun, exciting set of adventures. Well-written attractive women on exciting adventures, and they're two of my favorite versions of my favorite characters in the whole DC universe. What else could I want?

P.S. Can I just say that Birds of Prey, Volume 2 is a terrible title? There's one other DC book with that on the title page (Birds of Prey, Volume 2: Your Kiss Might Kill) and two others that go by that title on Amazon (Birds of Prey: Sensei & Student and Birds of Prey: The Death of Oracle). It's bad enough to have four books called "Birds of Prey, Volume 2," but to have the fourth one be the one with no clarifying subtitle seems an attempt at being deliberately obscure.

My favorite panel. Apparently the DCU's version of the United States is a very different one to ours, including the Nebraskansas superstate, one enormous Great Lake, an Indiana-shaped Ohio, Lake West Virginia, an even tinier Connecticut, and no Cape Cod.
from Birds of Prey vol. 1 #4 (art by Greg Land & Drew Geraci)

Next Week: We jump ahead to another Volume 2 of Birds of Prey, Your Kiss Might Kill!

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